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  1. 1. International Issues The USA The American Dream is the belief that anyone – regardless of background – can be successful with hard work. This unit focuses on this issue, asking if it is true. It also looks in more detail at American politics, both how it works and who is involved as well as discussing America’s immigration debate. Social & economic inequalities and Government action EMPLOYMENT Progress/government action Problems Temporary Assistance for Needy TANF only available for two years at a Families (TANF) is a program to provide time and for a maximum of five years in help to poor families. TANF is a fixeda lifetime; leaves people very poor if term scheme which gives money for rent they don’t get a job. Legal immigrants and bills. Participants must be looking for are not allowed TANF. Participants must work and take part in training. People in also take any job, even if not suitable e.g. college can get TANF. no account of childcare problems. Affirmative Action has been running Affirmative Action is very controversial. since the 1970s. This scheme allows It has been challenged and changed in colleges, universities and employers to the Supreme Court several times. When consider race as a factor when recruiting. AA schemes have ended it has often Since its introduction EMs have become seen a huge fall in black/Hispanic (overall) richer in the US. participation or employment. HEALTH Progress/government action Problems President Obama proposed major America has huge health problems e.g. healthcare reform to make health obesity, cancer, etc. Around 50 million insurance compulsory, with the Americans are uninsured, which means government paying for poorer people. they often go without medical US government already pays Medicaid treatment. Obama’s healthcare changes for poor people, Medicare for the elderly won’t come in for two more years (and and provides treatment to veterans. could still be stopped).
  2. 2. EDUCATION Progress/government action Problems No Child Left Behind Act was introduced Dispute about its overall effectiveness; by President Bush and set minimum US Department of Education doesn’t standards e.g. results, attendance. Extra have resources to monitor every school. federal money invested too. Schools lost Up to parents to complain if standards money if they didn’t meet targets. low; poorest parents often find it hardest Poorest pupils got extra tutoring if to complain. Focus on least able pupils; needed, which helped them. more able then miss out on help. POVERTY/INCOME Progress/government action Problems Food Stamps Program aims to help poor Many people claim that the money Americans afford food. They receive a provided is still not enough to have a debit-style card and a monthly allowance healthy diet; this makes the US problems which can only be spent on food. Helps with obesity and bad health worse. Most 46 million Americans each month and research suggests money is spent on costs around $67 billion per year. cheap, fatty foods. Checks and balances / Powers of the President The US Federal Government is divided into three parts: executive (runs the country, President), legislative (makes the laws, Congress) and judicial (interprets laws and constitution, Supreme Court). To ensure that no one part becomes too powerful each can influence the other; this is known as ‘checks and balances’. THE PRESIDENT Powers The President can veto (reject) laws from Congress e.g. Bush vetoed Stem Cell funding in 2006. The President also appoints people to the government and Supreme Court e.g. Obama nominated Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. He is also Commander-in-chief, meaning he is in charge of the Armed Forces and can sign treaties with other countries. Limits on powers Congress can overrule the veto, as long as 2/3 of its members vote to do so e.g. 2005 flood prevention bill. Only Congress has the power to declare war; they also fund the Armed Forces and can withdraw this e.g. Democrats and Iraq. Congress can reject the President’s nominations. Once on the Supreme Court judges can ignore the President. 2
  3. 3. CONGRESS Powers Limits on power Congress makes all laws and decides on The President can veto laws, which can the country’s budget. They have the delay or cancel them. He can also use his power to declare war and get the final national media profile to influence say on all treaties with foreign countries. Congress to take certain action e.g. Congress can reject presidential ideas for healthcare bill. It is also the President laws e.g. Obama’s DREAM Act. They who proposes the national budget. The make final decision on all government Supreme Court can rule that any new and Supreme Court jobs. laws are unconstitutional. THE SUPREME COURT Powers Limits on power The Supreme Court interprets the Judges are nominated by the President; Constitution; if they rule that a new law he chooses people who agree with him. or budget goes against this they can The President can also pardon (free) strike it down e.g. they are considering people from prison. Congress decides if Obama’s healthcare bill. They are in post the President’s nominations will be for life and are unlikely to ever be elected; they can and do reject them e.g. removed so cannot be intimidated. George Bush and Harriet Myers. Ethnic minorities - political progress America is still politically divided. Whites are more likely to be registered to vote and to actually use their vote. The overwhelming majority of politicians are white too. However some changes are happening, not least given Obama’s election. Generally EMs are most likely to vote Democrat, and more whites vote Republican. VOTING AND REGISTRATION Progress/government action Problems In 2008 all EMs saw an increase in EMs less likely than whites to be turnout (blacks increased by 8%); registered to vote and to actually vote. Obama/role model factor? Government Voting turnout linked to education; campaigns such as Rock the Vote and blacks/Hispanics have lower education the Motor Voter Act have made it easier levels. Hispanics have language and to register and then vote. Growth of immigration barriers. 2008; 49% black middle class relevant too. Hispanics voted, 66% whites. 3
  4. 4. FEDERAL GOVERNMENT Progress/government action Problems Election of Obama was huge; first ever Blacks and Hispanics under-represented black man in the White House. Stands a population size; blacks make up 8% of good chance of re-election in 2012. More Congress but 13% of population. Whites EMs elected to Congress; 42 blacks, up make up 66% of US and 85% of Congress. from 25 in 1992; majority/minority Most blacks in Congress are Democrats; districts have helped. Black and Hispanic Republicans run Congress just now so members of Congress join as a group their influence is limited. Still only one (Caucus) which gives them more EM President, and never a Hispanic. influence on policy, laws, etc. Currently no black Senators. STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT Progress/government action Problems Ethnic minorities more likely to vote in EMs still under-represented at state and state and local elections; EM candidates local level compared to their overall size. tend to be more successful in these Only 3/50 EM Governors in the USA (2 elections. Huge growth in EM mayors Republicans, 1 Democrat). Very and state representatives e.g. 484 black expensive running local campaigns; EMs mayors; four of US largest cities have tend to be poorer (Governor campaigns Hispanic mayors. cost average $45 million). How ethnic minorities use political power (summary)  Obama elected President; can introduce laws and policies based on his experiences of being an ethnic minority in the USA  Black and Hispanic Caucuses in Congress; (a Caucus is a meeting of a certain group of people) all Black and Hispanic members of Congress join as a Caucus to talk about issues which specifically affect their race e.g. suggest new laws  More elected EM officials; as more EM are elected as Mayors, etc this allows them to make laws based on their experiences and the groups that elect them  Improved EM voter turnout; as more EMs vote this forces politicians (of whatever race) to take account of their demands when making laws 4
  5. 5. Ethnic minorities – social & economic progress Ethnic minorities in the USA have made some social, economic and political progress in the past few decades. However they still generally do worse than white people. The government have taken some steps to rectify this but work remains to be done. INCOME Progress/government action Black poverty levels have reduced in recent years (but Credit Crunch stalled this). Also Asians have highest average earnings, even more than whites (Asians, $54,000; whites, $46,000). Asian business ownership at high levels too; US Business Support Administration helps set up new businesses. Problems Credit crunch has seen all ethnic groups suffer a reduction in their income. Hispanic reduction largest of all ethnic groups (66% drop in income). Black divide emerging; some well off (growing middle class), others getting poorer. Blacks still poorer than whites (black poverty, 25%; white poverty 8%). EMPLOYMENT Progress/government action Problems Black/Hispanic unemployment fell Unemployment has increased for all sharply in the 1990s, possibly due to groups following Credit Crunch. Blacks Affirmative Action but also the stronger twice as likely as whites to be economy; credit crunch hurt this. Asians unemployed (17% to 9%). Hispanic have high employment and business unemployment increasing too. Strong ownership rates. 3.7% of Asians work in link between black unemployment and finance compared to 2.3% of whites. low educational achievement (cycle of poverty). EDUCATION Progress/government action Problems Asians perform better in education that Blacks and Hispanics more likely to do all other ethnic groups. Number of badly in education; 40% of Hispanics blacks and Hispanics graduating from drop out of High School compared to High School and college has increased in 15% of whites. EMs also more likely to recent years. Government would argue attend poor schools, which are underNo Child Left Behind Act has helped. resourced and have gang problems. 5
  6. 6. HEALTH Progress/government action Obama’s healthcare reforms will increase insurance numbers (but doesn’t come into effect for 2 more years). Asian Americans live longer and have better health record than all other groups; Asians account for 5% of US population but only 0.6% of new AIDS cases. Number of Hispanics with no health insurance fell between 2000 and 2007. Problems Blacks and Hispanics the groups most likely to suffer from poor health and be uninsured. Hispanics most likely to work in dangerous jobs e.g. construction. In 2007 10% of whites were uninsured compared to 20% of blacks and 32% of Hispanics. Blacks most likely to suffer from AIDS; blacks make up 13% of US population yet 44% of new AIDS cases. 6
  7. 7. Immigration – The debate EMPLOYMENT Arguments against Arguments for Complaints that immigrants take jobs Lower wages immigrants keep prices low from Americans, especially after the for all Americans. Some states rely on Credit Crunch; 11% US unemployment immigrants e.g. 80% of farm workers in rate. Also accused of lowering average California. Immigrants often do jobs wages e.g. low skill wages 2.4% down. Americans don’t want e.g. domestic This hurts the poorest workers, often service. Financial benefit too e.g. $30 ethnic minorities. billion boost to US economy annually. ESSENTIAL SERVICES Arguments against Arguments for Immigrants are a drain on essential Many immigrants bring in essential skills services like health and education; e.g. huge number of nurses are significant cost to magnet states e.g. $5 immigrants, without which some billion annually in California. Immigrants hospitals couldn’t work. Immigrants also need extra help e.g. translators in work as low paid cleaners, etc in schools, schools. Some hospitals have closed hospitals. ‘A day without immigrants’ down because of unpaid medical bills. showed how important immigrants are. AMERICAN CULTURE Arguments against Arguments for American culture overwhelmed e.g. America was founded on immigration; some want English as the national most Americans trace their roots language. In some states road signs are somewhere else. Immigrants bring in written in Spanish and English. Tension interest and culture e.g. Italian food, etc. as Americans react against the incomers; Immigrants tend to be younger and most Hispanic population increase huge; 2012 active; just the people America needs to most US babies (50.4%) born non-white. keep it vibrant. 7
  8. 8. Immigration – government policies There is a big debate as to who should be responsible for tackling immigration problems in the USA, the states or Federal government. FEDERAL GOVERNMENT – POST 9/11 Government action Criticisms Various actions following 9/11 to tackle Lead to a reduction in the number of immigration. The 2001 PATRIOT Act gave immigrants – legal and illegal – entering Attorney general power to declare any the USA (c.1 million in 2001 to c.700,000 immigrant as a terrorist and increased in 2003). Complaints that the rules gave border patrols; 2001 Border Security Act too much power to the government; also increased budget for border checks. eventually increased illegal immigration. FEDERAL GOVERNMENT – SINCE 2005 Government action Criticisms Magnet states demanded immigrants be Both Presidents’ plans were rejected by allowed to work in their states; President Congress, meaning that no meaningful Bush proposed the Guest Worker Bill, so action was taken by the Federal more immigrants could get temporary Government. Also shows hypocrisy that visas. Bush also increased the border many in the US complain about patrol budget by $700 million. President immigrants and yet they need them for Obama proposed the DREAM Act, to let cheap labour. illegal immigrants’ children stay. STATE GOVERNMENT Government action Criticisms Magnet state governments have taken Too early to say if California’s DREAM Act action. California introduced its own will make any difference, but it shows DREAM Act. Other actions have been that they need immigration. Arizona’s more controversial; Arizona brought in a plan received huge criticism and was law to allow police to stop-and-search referred to the Supreme Court for being anyone who looked like an immigrant. unconstitutional; other parts of it were Texas launched a Virtual Border Watch simply dropped. The Texas camera to allow people to look at the border on initiative was criticised as a gimmick and webcam and report suspicious activity. has numerous broken cameras. 8
  9. 9. The USA Past Paper questions 2012 To what extent does Congress act as an effective check on the powers of the President? 2011 Assess the effectiveness of government policies to reduce social and economic inequalities in the USA. 2010 Assess the impact of recent immigration on the USA. 2009 To what extent do ethnic minorities achieve the American Dream? 2008 Assess the effectiveness of Congress and the Supreme Court in checking the powers of the President. 2007 To what extent do ethnic minorities influence the outcome of elections in the USA? 9